asking good questions

Asking Good Questions

Asking Good Questions

The ability to ask good questions is key for any leader. Unfortunately, it doesn't come naturally for most of us. It's a skill we have to develop over time.

Ask the Second Question

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You have permission to ask the second question. What do I mean by that? What is the second question? It’s the follow-up. “Hi, how are you?”

“Great. How are you?”

“Good!”

Without the second question, the conversation is over. But as the group's leader, you're invited to continue the conversation by asking another question. Be the kind of leader who is interested in others beyond the surface-level pleasantries. More times than not, when you ask a second question, people start getting real.

When you ask someone how he or she is doing and you a get-one word responses like, “fine,” “good,” or “okay,” show your group member you care and are genuinely interested in knowing what’s going on in his or her life by asking specific questions. You can even ask a group member what "fine," "good," or "okay" looks like.

People generally want to talk in more detail about how they’re doing, but they need to know the person on the other end of the conversation is safe. They need a little encouragement. They need to feel confident that, if they get more personal, what they say will be well received. You're in a special position. You're the group's leader. You have an opportunity to lead your members in healthy, safe communication by asking the second question.

Knowledge and Wisdom

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Andy Stanley's current series, Ask It, has gotten me thinking a lot lately about knowledge, wisdom, and the difference between the two.  Ours is a knowledge-obsessed culture (we are living in the information age, after all). As a result, we tend to confuse knowledge and wisdom. If we have a problem, our knee-jerk reaction is to throw information at it. Read a self-help book. Watch an instructional video. Google it. We want to believe that if we have enough information, it'll solve our problems.

But it's not quite so easy, is it? Sifting through all the information out there to find what's true and helpful is challenging. That's because knowledge tells only half the story. The other half belongs to wisdom. To clarify things, let's take a quick look at some definitions from Dictionary.com:

Knowledge—acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation.

Wisdom—knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action.

Knowledge is about knowing (duh). Wisdom is about living. One can't be wise without knowledge, but the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake doesn't make one wise. Application is the path to wisdom. This is so true that you can actually become wise by leaning into other people's application. We can learn from the experiences and mistakes of our parents, mentors, bosses, and friends, without having to repeat those experiences and mistakes, if we listen humbly and thoughtfully.

So, what does all this have to do with group leadership? Well, if you've been a leader for any amount of time, you've probably bumped into group members hungry for knowledge. They talk about wanting to go "deeper" in Bible study. There's nothing inherently wrong with digging into Scripture, but keep in mind that our culture over-emphasizes the power of knowledge to affect change. People often don't grasp that just knowing the Bible won't grow them spiritually.

It's more important that your group's interaction with the Bible is focused on personal application than it is on depth. Going deeper for the sake of going deeper won't change your life. But even a "shallow" reading of Scripture—one that doesn't take into account stuff like historical context, literary genre, or rich theological analysis—can change your life, if you ask, "In light of what I'm reading, how can I change the way I live in order to align my heart and my mind more closely with God's?"

Asking that question is the path to wisdom.